This winter, wildlife in the northern Rocky Mountains will likely be terrorized by a swarm of armed humans elbowing and off-roading each other out of the way in a frenzied race to see who can kill the most animals in 72 hours during Idaho's "Predator Derby."
If permitted, the killing contest would take place every winter, beginning on January 2, 2015, and would include prizes for killing a wide variety of wildlife species, including wolves, coyotes, weasels, skunks, jackrabbits, raccoons, and starlings, across a large swath of eastern Idaho. Last year, the contestants killed 21 coyotes and at least one badger.
The Bureau of Land Management, charged with managing public lands on our behalf, received 56,490 comments in opposition to the event and 10 in favor. Still, the environmental assessment released this week clearly signals that the BLM intends to issue a Special Recreation Permit (SRP) to conduct slaughtering contest on BLM lands.
The BLM's analysis superficially considered impacts to recreation, wildlife habitat, social and economic values. But it failed to sufficiently address the potential for lost Idaho tourism and recreation that may result from draconian predator management policies, loss of wildlife, and the damage to wildlife habitat from bloodthirsty competitors speeding around on wild lands with little regard for anything but amassing dead animals.
Furthermore, the assessment failed to adequately address an alternative SRP request for a wildlife-viewing contest submitted by Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity for the same dates and location. Rather than thoughtfully consider the inherent conflicts between the two events, BLM requested that the wildlife-viewing contest be rescheduled. If held prior the Predator Derby, viewers' experience will be degraded substantially from knowledge of the impending doom of the animals, and if held after, some of the wildlife will be dead and gone.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) also has authority to stop this killing contest in Idaho. IDFG manages wildlife in trust for the public and determines hunting regulations in Idaho. In 2000, the IDFG Commission adopted a Predator Management Policy, stating that IDFG "will not support any contests or similar activities involving the taking of predators which may portray hunting in an unethical fashion, devalue the predator, and which may be offensive to the general public."
Undoubtedly, this event is offensive to the general public, devalues predators, portrays hunting in an unethical fashion, and is not "hunting" in the traditional sense of the word. Only rarely are wildlife hunted for subsistence in the modern United States. With few exceptions, most of today's hunters engage in what could only be described as a distortion of what was once a basic human survival strategy. Some modern hunters demonstrate respect and admiration for the natural world. But a killing contest is nothing but a violent slaughter of defenseless creatures where the trigger-pullers seek glory, not protein.
It's time for the BLM and Idaho Fish and Game to stop irrationally implementing the wishes of 10 extremists and start acting on behalf of the 56,490 reasonable people who would like to prevent indiscriminate wildlife killing on our shared public lands.